Therapeutic Self-Help Groups
Many ‘people face problems which seem beyond their ability to handle. Have you ever tried to lose weight, stop smoking, change drinking habits, or make some other behavior ” change? Have you ever needed to face the aftermath of mental illness, ‘or loss 01 a loved.one, or accept a disfigurement? If so you can appreciate the circumstances which lead people to join with others who have similar problems’ and to gain help from the group in making an adjustment. As early as 1936 Dale Carnegie realized that many people who wished to speak effectively could not learn to do so by themselves. He organized “classes” which were really groups which supported and encouraged shy and timid people to speak more fluently in public. The most prominent noncommercial therapeutic group, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), has operated only since 1935. No one knows how many different types of self-help group exist but a 1963 listing showed 263 such , organizations Jackson 1963), The number has probably increased since, then as many other self-help groups have followed the AA model: Persons sharing a particular problem an alcoholic spouse, a mentally ill family member, a ‘weight problem, a habit of child’ abuse, a physical handicap, a handicapped child, or one of many others-assemble to discuss their problem and gain group support in accepting and dealing with it [Katz and Bender, 1976]. One of the techniques Is the use of group pressure to reward each gain toward the behavior goal. An’ example 1s the procedure of Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) At the’ beginning of the agenda, each member must be weighed by an official Weight Reorder. Weights, arc recorded on Weight Charts and losses or gains’ Cor the’ week are computed. Members lengthiness than they did at-the previous meeting are designated “Tops” and are decorated with a cardboard hear specifying the amount of weight lost. Members whose” weight has remained constant are labeled ‘n-ur- r ties.” Members whose weight has Increased become “Pigs” and have to wear a pig-shaped label or bib (Hans Tote That Social Psychology of Social Movements, The Babes Merrill Company, Inc., Indianapolis, 1965,p. 73). Therapeutic self-help groups transform people from helpless victims into persons more capable of controlling their lives. Such groups end one’s isolation and offer Consoling knowledge that others’ face problems successfully t The person is not a lonely victim of character weakness or special misfortune ending in hopeless disaster: in stead, the person is one among many whom the group can help.